Almost everyone knows what an RFP is. But for the sake of clarity, a "Request for Proposal" is a formal structured document outlining the "requirements" that a product must meet in order to be a candidate for purchase. It also requests the vendor to provide a price quotation for the product, service, additional accessories, and options. The purchaser defines a set of criteria and/or specifications that the vendor must commit to. The vendor/product may not initially meet all of the defined criteria. It then becomes a point of negotiation between the purchaser and the vendor to add, modify, or remove requirements that the product or service must meet. This process will quickly determine whether the product or service is a viable candidate.
An RFP need not be overly complicated. However, the more detailed the RFP, the more likely the product will meet the purchaser's requirements - without glaring omissions appearing after the purchase... when it is too late.
We always recommend using an RFP process. For one thing, it puts the vendor on record as to what they must commit to. It also encourages the purchaser to really consider what the product or service must do now - and possibly in the near future. It also signals to the vendor that you are serious about the product selection process. Any vendor that obfuscates or refuses to participate in the RFP process should be avoided... no matter how much you like their product.
So, how do you develop an RFP? Especially, the specifications?
Table-I at the end of this page lists all of the essential requirements that an EHR/PM system should have. Your practice - and the services you provide - will dictate whether all of these requirements should be included in your RFP. There may likely be others that you will want to add. In fact, rather than sending out your newly minted RFP to all vendors on your list at once, you may want to start your RFP process with only a few vendors. Your early experience may uncover other features and specifications that you will want to add or change before proceeding with the rest of your candidate list.
After you have received and reviewed your RFP's, it is time to schedule product demonstrations for those vendors that have made your final cut. Either have the vendor conduct the initial demonstration on-site, or visit their local facility if they have one. It is best to conduct the demo in an atmosphere of little distraction so that the demo produces a solid understanding of how the product works and you can ask pertinent questions along the way. This purchase represents a significant outlay of time, money, and resources. So, you want to do as much due diligence as possible through the demo process. If possible, visit another provider that is using the same software in production and, even better, one that is practicing in the same area of medicine. This may be hard to do without having to travel but it will give you a much more in-depth feel for how the system will work in your practice.